Republicans want to make sure there’s no chance the Obama administration can shut down Gitmo by returning the land on which the facility is built to Cuba.
GOP Rep. [crscore]Mac Thornberry[/crscore], chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, noted that a provision existed in last year’s defense bill to prohibit the Obama administration from carrying out exactly that plan, but said he appreciated a suggestion from GOP Rep. [crscore]Ted Yoho[/crscore] to tighten up the language in this year’s defense bill. Yoho proposed that no change to the lease should be allowed without congressional approval first.
“As I work to move my stand-alone bill, I want to take this time to urge the Armed Services Committee to take similar actions in protecting against this potential for executive action and ensure that the president must come to Congress first,” Yoho said, according to The Hill.
Thornberry seems to think the suggestion is solid enough that it may find its way into the bill, even though the Obama administration has denied any intention to give into Cuba’s demands and return the U.S. Navy base to President Raul Castro.
One of Castro’s central demands as part of the renormalized relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has been the return of Gitmo, an area which the U.S. has leased since 1903.
Republicans already have a provision preventing the Obama administration from using any funds to close the base, to hand it over to Cuba or to change the treaty which gave rise to the lease.
The Obama administration has acknowledged these congressional strictures. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has confirmed that it’s up to Congress to change the law in order to transfer any detainees to the U.S.
“Now, that can’t be done unless Congress acts, which means that Congress has to support the idea that it would be good to move this facility or the detainees to the United States,” said Carter.
Still, clear language from Carter isn’t enough to satisfy Thornberry, who is entirely suspicious of the Obama administration’s tactics and motives.
“In his news conference Monday, Secretary Carter assured reporters that ‘we intend to hold on to it’, in response to questions about the President’s intentions toward GTMO,” Thornberry said in a statement. “His answer was less equivocal than his Administration colleagues. Still, as we learned with the Taliban 5 investigation, even seemingly direct statements are subject to reinterpretation by White House lawyers.”
Congress recently received a plan from the administration to close the facility, although legislators balked at the lack of specific costs or facility in mind for housing hardened detainees. Some legislators even went as far to say that the submitted plan doesn’t even constitute a plan at all, since it failed to satisfy basic legal requirements. The plan is not expected to pass muster with Congress, raising additional questions of how the Obama administration can possibly close the facility before Obama’s term is finished.
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